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Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby KentonB » Thu Mar 17, 2011 6:59 pm

Jim Davies wrote:
kaiman wrote:The isolation of these mountains and the few visitors, while offering a unique "backcountry experience" impedes your chances of getting help or a quick rescue if something goes wrong.

Don't worry, nobody is ever truly "alone" in Chicago Basin in the summer. And except for the summit boulder on Sunlight, the difficulty of the climbing is lower than on the Crestones, IMO.

I was just about to post the same thing! I thought Chicago Basin would feel really remote... but it was packed when we went. Came across no less than 4 rangers, a whole crew of CFI volunteers (working on Sunlight's Trail), and pretty much every flat piece of ground had a campsite on it within a 3 mile radius.

For what it's worth, I thought Sunlight was MUCH easier than all the hype. Also, height has its advantages. I actually went up and tagged it twice when we got to the summit so we could video tape it and take pictures.

For instructional purposes only...

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby Marmot72 » Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:02 pm

Regarding the summit block, climbing up is no problem, but, for anyone 5'9"/5'10" or shorter, climbing back is scary because, unlike Kenton, you can't simply extend your feet back across the gap....and the gap has a LOT of air beneath it. Some people are plenty comfy just jumping back across the gap...that's what I was telling myself I had to do, but my legs quaked at the thought...and I did this after I'd done things like the Bells traverse, Crestone Peak's airy North Buttress. Also, for Eolus, the route finding is tough for a lot of people (after the catwalk) so I'd suggest tagging with others doing the route.
I have phenomenal route-finding abilities. Specifically, I have an uncanny knack for seeking the path of most resistance.

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby KentonB » Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:26 pm

Marmot72 wrote:Regarding the summit block, climbing up is no problem, but, for anyone 5'9"/5'10" or shorter, climbing back is scary because, unlike Kenton, you can't simply extend your feet back across the gap....and the gap has a LOT of air beneath it. Some people are plenty comfy just jumping back across the gap...that's what I was telling myself I had to do, but my legs quaked at the thought...and I did this after I'd done things like the Bells traverse, Crestone Peak's airy North Buttress. Also, for Eolus, the route finding is tough for a lot of people (after the catwalk) so I'd suggest tagging with others doing the route.

Marmot72, you are definitely correct that height has it's advantages (I'm 6'4"). That said, a hiking partner can easily stand in the gap and help out. I actually did this with one of my climbing partners who was reluctant to do the jump and probably couldn't have extended his leg like I did. For those who haven't been to Sunlight, there actually IS a rock platform just 4 feet or so below the rock you jump to. It's the one I climb down to in the video.

I realize when you're "up there", sometimes panic strikes and a person may not think of all these possibilities. I just wanted to convey a few tricks that worked for us.

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby d_baker » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:31 pm

KentonB....cool video. I wished you had video of the first crossing going up though. When I was there in mid-May, I couldn't "see" the move to get over the gap. I ended up climbing the slab up to the top instead, and down-climbing the slab.

To gregp, the OP, I didn't read through this whole thread, so I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned a hike up Jupiter while you're in there?
Out of the 3 14ers (4 if counting N Eolus) and Jupiter in Chicago Basin, I enjoyed the summit of Jupiter the best. However, it was the best weather day for us too!!
Regardless, have a fun and safe adventure in the Weminuche!

-Darin

Edit: found this video from the above link KentonB posted:


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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby bking14ers » Sun Mar 20, 2011 7:38 am

The U-tube video's help, but I'm only 5'8". The jump was great though. Nice landing!

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby KentonB » Sun Mar 20, 2011 8:03 am

d_baker wrote:KentonB....cool video. I wished you had video of the first crossing going up though...

Edit: found this video from the above link KentonB posted:

I actually do have a video of me climbing up... As well as a partner doing "the jump" and a video he took from the summit panning around. They're on my YouTube page if you go there.

The video you just posted is actually a couple of my co-workers (Ben & Randy) who were up in Chicago Basin a year before we went.

bking14ers wrote:The U-tube video's help, but I'm only 5'8". The jump was great though. Nice landing!

bking14ers, it's mostly psychological. Again, try having a hiking partner stand in the "gap" to help you out. You can face inward toward the rock and have him/her guide your foot across the gap pretty easily.

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby gregp » Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:59 am

gdthomas wrote:gregp - I haven't read all the posts on this thread so perhaps someone has already made this point but if you've only climbed two 14ers to date, why do you want to tackle Sunlight, Windom and Eolus solo when there are many other peaks more suited to your level of experience? For example, the Missouri Gulch 14ers (Belford, Oxford and Missouri), while not as scenic as the Chicago Basin 14ers, require a relatively short hike in, do not exceed class 2, and are more suitable for solo climbing in case you get into trouble. Granted, you may not be climbing alone in Chicago Basin and its certainly possible to summit all of the peaks you attempt without incident but you could be biting off more than you can chew. Coming from the east coast, your body may not be prepared for the 7 mile, 3,000 vertical feet hike (with a full pack) to the head of the basin. Then its another two miles and 3,000 feet to the first summit. That's plenty of mileage and vertical for something to go wrong. Rain is common in Chicago Basin so wet rock is always a concern, particularly on Eolus. Being alone will only exacerbate any problems you may encounter. I'm fairly conservative when it comes to giving climbing advice to people I don't know. Ultimately you have to be true to yourself as far as your mental and physical ability. As enticing as they may seem, the Chicago Basin 14ers are not the best 3rd, 4th and 5th 14ers to climb.


gdthomas,

I understand completely what you are saying here and believe me I'm not taking this lightly. My reasoning behind these 14ers is that I'll already be in the area. I will be hiking the Elk Park to Neeleton loop and thought I'd give them a go while there in Chicago Basin. If for any reason, I feel as though I'm over my head, I'll simply turn around.

As to being in shape, well it's hard to say. Physically, I'm in the process of getting ready for the trip but when you factor in the altitude, well one never knows. So far, I've been pretty lucky and have had very few problems with altitude while out there. I hope to continue that streak! [-o<

Thanks for the wisdom and advice.

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby gregp » Sat Mar 26, 2011 8:17 am

Airline tickets have been purchased! 8)

Against the sound advice of many, my impatience got the best of me and I'll be heading to Durango on Friday June 24th. I'll hop the train Saturday the 25th and should be in Chicago Basin late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

So I have a couple more questions. Would anyone like to climb there around that time and will I need an ice axe? I'm guessing that having one would be prudent however if it's not absolutely necessary, I'd rather not carry it. I will have trekking poles if that makes a difference.

Again, if anyone is interested in climbing there around that time I would be honored if you'd join me.

Thanks everyone.

Greg

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby climbing_rob » Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:02 am

gregp wrote:Airline tickets have been purchased! 8)

Against the sound advice of many, my impatience got the best of me and I'll be heading to Durango on Friday June 24th. I'll hop the train Saturday the 25th and should be in Chicago Basin late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

So I have a couple more questions. Would anyone like to climb there around that time and will I need an ice axe? I'm guessing that having one would be prudent however if it's not absolutely necessary, I'd rather not carry it. I will have trekking poles if that makes a difference.
I have not been following the San Juan range snowpack this year, but in general in late June, expect large patches of snow hanging around. The real problem is the possibility of having to cross a moderately steep, hard snowfield or two. A slip w/o an axe and you could go for a ride. Trekking poles are certainly better than nothing. But they make some ultralight Ice axes, like the 7 ounce Aluminum Camp:

http://www.rei.com/product/751753

I have been there numerous times, mostly August/September (lots of Juicy 13ers in the area!), and last year we did a 4-day July 4th weekend tour. We did not bring ice axes. One small place (north side of 2-thumbs pass, not even on your 14er route) we kinda wish we had them. So really, tough call in late June. Maybe you can get some beta on here for folks that head down there in early June. I guess that would be my advice, wait and see. I would also consider some sort of traction devices, like micro-spikes for any higher angle hard snow. We always carry a 15oz pair of aluminum crampons for June/early July 14ers, but I hear microspikes are nearly as good.

In any case, enjoy what many consider to be a truly fine area in CO ! (my personal favorites are Ruby and Noname basins, just north of Chi-basin). I betcha in late June, you will not have the crowds. Well, except the damn goats. And read up on Marmot issues in Chi-basin.

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby Presto » Sat Mar 26, 2011 2:35 pm

by climbing_rob » Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:02 am
I have not been following the San Juan range snowpack this year, but in general in late June, expect large patches of snow hanging around. The real problem is the possibility of having to cross a moderately steep, hard snowfield or two. A slip w/o an axe and you could go for a ride. Trekking poles are certainly better than nothing.

I have been there numerous times, mostly August/September (lots of Juicy 13ers in the area!), and last year we did a 4-day July 4th weekend tour. We did not bring ice axes. One small place (north side of 2-thumbs pass, not even on your 14er route) we kinda wish we had them. So really, tough call in late June. Maybe you can get some beta on here for folks that head down there in early June. I guess that would be my advice, wait and see. I would also consider some sort of traction devices, like micro-spikes for any higher angle hard snow. We always carry a 15oz pair of aluminum crampons for June/early July 14ers, but I hear microspikes are nearly as good.


Sound advice ... personally, I always bring an ice axe that time of year. Trekking poles are no substitute when you lose footing. Areas of the trail/route that are not in the sun very much, or at all, will be bullet-proof and could provide you with a fast and unwanted descent. Scheduling later in June, as you did, will help with the snow conditions somewhat (my sister lives down there and it has been a low snow year). As with Rob, all of our climbing down there has been late July/August/September as our goal was to be successful on as many peaks as we could. I'll be curious to hear about your trip and see how the backpacking loop goes (done that before and it is a beauty). I do find it wise that you are willing to turn back on anything that might cause you to feel you are past your experience comfort level. As with gdthomas, I have not read all of this thread, but would advise (if someone hasn't already) that you have a good topo map in case you have to detour or re-route yourself due to conditions that exceed your abilities. Happy trails! :D
As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby gregp » Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:24 pm

d_baker wrote:KentonB....cool video. I wished you had video of the first crossing going up though. When I was there in mid-May, I couldn't "see" the move to get over the gap. I ended up climbing the slab up to the top instead, and down-climbing the slab.

To gregp, the OP, I didn't read through this whole thread, so I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned a hike up Jupiter while you're in there?
Out of the 3 14ers (4 if counting N Eolus) and Jupiter in Chicago Basin, I enjoyed the summit of Jupiter the best. However, it was the best weather day for us too!!
Regardless, have a fun and safe adventure in the Weminuche!

-Darin

Edit: found this video from the above link KentonB posted:



d_baker,

No one mentioned Jupiter Peak however I have noticed it brought up in trip reports I've read. There are also Arrow and Vestal peaks to consider in route so there are definitely plenty of options. I appreciate you mentioning it as a possible climb and will definitely consider doing the climb if time permits.

I appreciate the comments and well wishes!

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Re: Inexperienced climber vs. Chicago Basin 14ers

Postby gregp » Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:34 pm

climbing_rob wrote:
gregp wrote:Airline tickets have been purchased! 8)

Against the sound advice of many, my impatience got the best of me and I'll be heading to Durango on Friday June 24th. I'll hop the train Saturday the 25th and should be in Chicago Basin late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

So I have a couple more questions. Would anyone like to climb there around that time and will I need an ice axe? I'm guessing that having one would be prudent however if it's not absolutely necessary, I'd rather not carry it. I will have trekking poles if that makes a difference.
I have not been following the San Juan range snowpack this year, but in general in late June, expect large patches of snow hanging around. The real problem is the possibility of having to cross a moderately steep, hard snowfield or two. A slip w/o an axe and you could go for a ride. Trekking poles are certainly better than nothing. But they make some ultralight Ice axes, like the 7 ounce Aluminum Camp:

http://www.rei.com/product/751753

I have been there numerous times, mostly August/September (lots of Juicy 13ers in the area!), and last year we did a 4-day July 4th weekend tour. We did not bring ice axes. One small place (north side of 2-thumbs pass, not even on your 14er route) we kinda wish we had them. So really, tough call in late June. Maybe you can get some beta on here for folks that head down there in early June. I guess that would be my advice, wait and see. I would also consider some sort of traction devices, like micro-spikes for any higher angle hard snow. We always carry a 15oz pair of aluminum crampons for June/early July 14ers, but I hear microspikes are nearly as good.

In any case, enjoy what many consider to be a truly fine area in CO ! (my personal favorites are Ruby and Noname basins, just north of Chi-basin). I betcha in late June, you will not have the crowds. Well, except the damn goats. And read up on Marmot issues in Chi-basin.


climbing_rob,

I've been keeping my eye on the snow conditions out there especially since I decided to go in June rather than late August. I check Durango's weather practically every day!

I figured I'd probably need the ice axe. The one you linked looks great and have a hundred bucks worth of REI dividend I can use to pay for it! Thanks for that! I own a pair of micro spikes so I'll at least fly out with them and if needed will pack them too. Between all the extra gear needed (axe, helmet, spikes, small day pack) and a new camera (big DSLR :shock: ) my pack looks like it will be pushing 40 pounds! Yikes!! At least I won't have to climb with it.

I've heard tale of the goats and marmots out there. Making sure my stuff is secure while climbing will definitely be priority.

climbing_rob, thanks for the tips and well wishes. Much appreciated!

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